He wears his local Ivorian dress, agbada. Keita thinks that Africans should strive to maintain and protect their culture wherever they find themselves, even if it’s in a refugee camp in a remote part of Ghana’s Western Region. Atibou is striving to do just that, having lived in the Krisan Refugee Camp for 8 years.
Africans from around the continent now live together in Krisan, which was originally established for Liberian refugees during the 1996 civil war. The camp now hosts 12 different nationalities. With the multicultural environment in Krisan, the refugees sometimes find it challenging to maintain their cultures.
Although refugees live without certainty of what the future may hold, holding onto their culture is an important part of reminding them of where they came from. Refugees in Krisan are clinging to their ethnic routes and are coming up with interesting ways to maintain their identities.
“Naturally, as Africans, the only thing that separates us from the rest of the world is our culture and values, and that we must always strive hard to maintain our culture no matter where we find ourselves,” says Atibou.
Atibou maintains his culture by wearing Ivorian clothing, eating Ivorian food and singing local Ivorian music tunes, he also teaches his two children, who were born in the refugee camp, some local Ivorian dialects. “I do this so that my children will not forget their roots,” he noted.
Refugees from other countries are also trying very hard to maintain their ethnic traits. The Togolese have a cultural troupe that performs Togolese local music and dances during special occasions.
Hihiaglo Abraham Innocent is an 87 year-old drummer from Togo who has lived in Krisan for 16 years. He says that people in Krisan get the chance to exhibit their cultural practices during their native country’s Independence Day celebrations, marriage ceremonies and funerals.
“We have a Togolese dance ensemble here in the camp. We dance to Togolese local music, and this is howthe children in this camp get to learn about their culture and where they really come from,” says Abraham.
As much as many try to maintain their cultures while living in Krisan, many of Krisan’s residents are also beginning to blend their cultures. The camp manager, Mr. Martin Bannerman says “Inter-marriage plays a major factor in blending cultures in the camp. Inter-marriages in the camp have promoted peace among the different nationalities.”
Atibou is one of the refugees who strives to maintain his culture, but is also adapting, he’s married to a Togolese woman and they have two children together.
Keita’s children’s unique situation makes it hard for them to know where they are really from; Ghana, Togo or the Ivory Coast? He explains, “My wife teaches the children some cultures from Togo when she is with them, and I also try my best to show them some Ivorian culture,” says Keita.
Although the refugees in Krisan are doing what they can to hold on to their ethnic roots, this can be a costly endeavor. Alfred Momoh, head of the Liberian community in Krisan says, “What it takes to sustain is not there for the people to maintain their culture…. people don’t have enough money to buy food stuffs to prepare local dishes or buy fabrics to make local dresses.”
The financial obstacles may make it difficult for the refugees to buy particular goods that remind them of home; however, they are ensuring that their countries traditions live on through stories, music and dance.
Krisan is a shining example of a multi-ethnic community where people from around the continent live and work together in harmony, appreciating the cultures of those around them.